Lemonade and Lemon Ice Pops

Cold, refreshing, lemonade!

As the summer gets hotter, we’re all looking for things that are cool and refreshing. There’s something about lemon that is bright and reviving on even the hottest days. Commercial lemonade tends to be too sweet for my taste. I like to taste the flavor of the lemon, and super sugary drinks don’t feel like they really quench thirst, especially since they leave my mouth sticky. So my formula for lemonade is a bright slightly tart one. If you want it sweeter, you can add make it sweeter, of course. A good idea is to make the basic batch that I make, then let everyone sweeten their glasses to their own taste if they they prefer something sweeter. I also use this same formula to make ice pops. After mixing it up, pour a bit into your favorite popsicle mold. Unless you’ve got a lot of popsicle molds, you’ll still have plenty left to drink because it makes 9 cups total.

  • 8 cups water
  • 1 cup Real Lemon lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup sugar (or equivalent of your preferred sweetener)

I use warm water to mix this up so that the sugar dissolves quickly and easily. If using something like honey or agave nectar, the temperature of the water wouldn’t be a factor. However, if you use something other than sugar, be sure to adjust the amount according to how sweet your sweetener is. A half cup of honey, for instance, will be sweeter than a half cup of sugar. So the amount of sweetener you use is dependent on what you use to sweeten the lemonade — as well as your own personal taste for how sweet you want it to be. My formula is a good starting place. It’s delicious as is, but is easily adjusted to suit individual tastes.

Stir the sugar into the warm water until dissolved. Add the lemon juice. Stir. The mixture will be cloudy. Chill thoroughly.

If making lemon ice popsicles, fill popsicle molds not quite to the top (liquid expands as it freezes). They’re ready to eat when they’re frozen solid. Honestly, I don’t know how long it will take to freeze. It depends on the size and shape (volume) of your popsicle molds. I typically don’t reach for a popsicle until the day after I put a batch into the freezer, but they should freeze faster than that! The sweet-tart flavor is perfect for a refreshing summer ice. Check out my Rocket Pops post for a different popsicle idea!



Pico de Gallo

Pico de Gallo

With a holiday in the U.S. this weekend, it’s prime time for a summertime party. We have lots of cookout ideas on the blog, some of which I covered at the beginning of summer with my Cookouts post. Here’s one more salsa recipe to add to last week’s Deadly Green Sauce. Unlike last week’s salsa recipe, this is a uncooked salsa, and it’s relatively mild. I suspect that the way I make it isn’t traditional. It is, however, flavorful, and makes a lot. The proportions of ingredients are a matter of individual taste. The amounts below are guidelines. Some people don’t like cilantro; you can substitute parsley, but keep in mind that the flavor will be radically different if you do. The amount of jalapeños depends on the size of the pepper as much as how hot you want it. Because this is a large batch of salsa, the amount of jalapeños in the recipe isn’t as excessive as it might appear. Use more if you want it to have more of a kick. Freshly chopped jalapeños can sometimes cause skin irritation so food handling gloves are recommended.

This makes about 6 cups.

2 onions
2 med or large tomatoes
3 average sized jalapeños (or 2 large)
1 clove garlic (2 if they’re small)
Bunch of cilantro
A little bit of parsley (optional)
5 Tbls vinegar
5 Tbls olive oil

The tomatoes should be diced by hand. I use regular slicing tomatoes for this. They’re very juicy and you’ll have a very wet mess of tomatoes when you’re done. Slide it, juice and all, from the cutting board into a large non-metallic bowl. Dice the onions finely either by hand or in a food processor. Dice the jalapeños very finely. The texture I go for is that the onions are cut finer than the tomatoes, and the jalapeños are diced more finely than the onions. The garlic I run through a garlic press. Chop up a supermarket sized bunch of cilantro as finely as you can, but don’t worry about it if some leaves slip through. I use the whole bunch, but use as much or as little as you want. I usually throw in a little parsley because I have Italian Flat Leafed Parsley in my garden almost year ’round. How much I add depends on whether it’s taking over the garden. 😉

The oil and vinegar give this almost the character of a chopped salad, albeit one in which cilantro and parsley stand in for the leafy greens. I learned to make it like this right after college; I had some that tasted great, so I asked what was in it. That’s how I found out about using an oil and vinegar dressing, which I think helps the flavors to meld.

Stir all the ingredients together well. Chill thoroughly before serving. This is good to make up ahead of time; the flavor will improve the longer it chills. Give it a good stirring before serving. As a dip, it’s fairly chunky. This is often used as a flavorful addition to wrapped-in-tortilla things.

See the Cookout for Vegetarian, Vegans and Friends who aren’t too sure about this post for cookout suggests for this Independence day. Also check out the snacks, yummy dips, and salsa tags for more recipes.

Cookouts For Vegetarians, Vegans, and Friends who aren’t too sure about this…

Grilling the corn.

Grilling the corn.

I’m posting this a bit earlier than my usual schedule for weekly posts because no doubt by now you’re planning your holiday weekend. With the Memorial Day weekend just around the corner, and the beginning of summer cookout season, vegetarians, vegans and their omnivorous friends may all look at each other and say, “What do we do?” Casual outdoor parties which prominently feature hosts who play with fire need not be impossible to navigate for vegetarians, vegans, or the people who throw the party (who might not be vegetarian). There’s lots of options for everyone and this post will link to some of the yummy cookout posts here from previous years, as well as thoughts and tips for navigating cookouts that are less veg-friendly. If you’re a vegetarian or vegan, there’s no reason you can’t throw a helluva party with amazing food that omnivores will scarf up with pleasure. Likewise, if you’re an omnivore, you don’t have to exclude your vegetarian friends from cookouts. Throw a great party around the grill! There are only two requirements and they’re easy.

Firstly, if you are hosting a cookout, always cook the vegetarian items on the grill before the meat items, if you’re planning on cooking any meat. (Vegetarian cookouts can be awesome! Check out the links at the end of this post.) The second requirement is that you and your guests love good food. 🙂 See? Easy.

Portobello burgers, grilled corn and homemade potato salad.

Portobello burgers, grilled corn and homemade potato salad.

There are some vegetarians and vegans who just can’t stand to be around any meat at all. Please, if you’re an omnivore, find out if your veggie-loving friends are okay with a meat option if cooked after the veggie components of the meal go on the grill. If you’re a vegan or vegetarian and you’re invited to a cookout with friends who are omnivores, ask if you should bring your own burgers or soy dogs or if they will be provided. If you’re bringing your own, arrive early. At least early enough that the whole meal isn’t held up waiting for the veg items to be put on the grill. Try not make too big a deal about it all, or inconvenience your host. This really shouldn’t be a big deal.

If they invited you to a cookout, it’s probably because they like you, enjoy your company, and want you to have a good time. You should honor their effort to accommodate your dietary choices and be happy to be included. On the off chance they invited you as some sort of passive aggressive way of disapproving of you and making you feel uncomfortable and unwanted, then they are very clearly and sadly in the wrong by any standard of civility and hospitality. How you respond to this is a personal decision and depends on the sort of person you are, whether you’re a “turn the other cheek” sort of person or a “my way or the highway” sort of person. Please don’t start a fight: people won’t remember that the host treated you poorly, only that you were screaming at them. Remember: the whole idea is to socialize, have fun, and eats tons of good food!

BBQ Baked Beans, hot and spicy!

BBQ Baked Beans, hot and spicy!

If no accommodation is made for your food choices, there are still some workarounds you can do as a vegetarian or vegan. One thing I did at a cookout was to make a sloppy joe style burger for myself out of the baked beans — which I had brought. If you didn’t make the beans you can’t know for sure if it’s vegetarian or vegan, but it’s a small compromise, as such things go. If you want to be sure such a work-around option is vegetarian, then offer to bring the BBQ Baked Beans. 🙂 They’re spicy and tasty and will win friends. I have people ask for this recipe every time I take it to a cookout where there’s people who haven’t had it before.



Social situations are supposed to be fun. Food is culture — and it’s inclusiveness, too. Sharing meals is one of those things that binds groups of people together. Making meals together, too. Also, potlucks. This is socially and culturally important. And fun. Let’s not forget the fun! Below are some previous posts about cookouts, about vegetarian burger and hotdog options, and recipes for various yummy things you can grill or bring. You will note that some of these posts refer to Thanksgiving. I live near the Texas Gulf Coast; cookout season easily extends to Thanksgiving and I’ve found that a vegetarian cookout for Thanksgiving is good analogue for a traditional Thanksgiving: everyone brings dishes and helps with the cooking, there’s a festive party atmosphere, and we all eat way too much! 😉

I don’t have a “bean burger” recipe (yet), and haven’t been diligent about creating one because I love the LightLife Backyard Grillin’ Burgers for cookouts. (Their other burgers are also good, but the Backyard Grillin Burgers are the absolute best for the grill.)

Give our blog a good browse and you’ll come up with desserts, too! (Throwing a party? Going to a party? Read about The Sticky Business of RSVPs. I wrote it for the Christmas season, but yeah, totally applicable to cookouts!)

Purple Potato Salad: Just Because!

Purple potato salad!

Purple potato salad!

20150506_105900With weather warming up, it’ll soon be time for picnics, potlucks, and cookouts. If you want to really surprise people, make purple (actually more like lavender once it’s made up) potato salad! This is the same as my potato salad recipe, but since I’ve found purple potatoes in the store lately, I couldn’t resist using them to make up potato salad. It tastes just like my potato salad recipe, but such color! (I used new potatoes of the same or similar variety for Roasted New Potatoes Mediterranean Style.)

I cooked the potatoes the day before I made it up…and served it the day after that. Because I didn’t cook the potatoes at the same time as making it up, I left the green onion raw, rather than steaming it under the potatoes. Other than that, it’s the same as my usual recipe (click through above). I cooked the potatoes whole, with skins on (I’m lazy). They’re not much to look at until you cut into them! The dressing subdues the color quite a bit, but still, this is color is irresistable.

The color of the potatoes was so striking that I couldn’t resist snapping pics as I added in ingredients. This is the most fun I’ve ever had making potato salad. Impossible not to grin while mixing this up!

Green onions & celery brighten it even more

Green onions & celery brighten it even more


Add pimentos and the color really pops!

Add pimentos and the color really pops!

Like the bright colors? This will go well with my Frankenslaw!

Fancy Dip bowl for fancy dip!

The Labor Day weekend represents the last hurrah of summer in the U.S. Though weather in the sunbelt states allows cookouts and outdoor parties most of the year, this is the last long weekend until Thanksgiving. So, if you’re planning a party, cookout, or picnic, this is a little something “extra” to dress up the chips-n-dip (or veggies and dip). I don’t recall where I first picked up this trick, but it has come in handy in recent years since I’ve perfected my Frankenslaw recipe, which uses some red cabbage. Here’s a cool way to use the rest of it!

Homemade artichoke dip, in red cabbage bowl.

Homemade artichoke dip, in red cabbage bowl.

I’m not going to lie to you: carving out the center of raw red cabbage takes more time and effort than you would think. But it looks so pretty! I’ve noticed that red cabbage is usually slightly smaller then green cabbage. If you want to use the red cabbage as one of the ingredients in my Frankenslaw and use it as a bowl for dip, pick one of the bigger of the reds. Slice off the top and chisel out the center: it doesn’t matter if it’s messy since it will be used in the slaw (which is really colorful and tasty). Any dip will do. If you want to make what’s in the picture, here’s my artichoke dip recipe. In this case I used smaller artichoke pieces and stirred them in for a chunkier dip than if I had used the blender.

Occasionally I get a cabbage with a very lopsided base and have to neaten up the bottom to make it sit more or less flat and not be tippy. Sit the cabbage on your serving dish and see how it settles and if anything needs to be done to the bottom before you fill it with dip! 🙂

Check out these tags for recipes: Cookouts, Picnics, Parties and Snacks!

A Vegetarian Thanksgiving

I’d been turning over the Thanksgiving-vegetarian thing in my mind for a couple of years before I finally hit on a good way to do it. The biggest problem to substituting something else for the turkey comes not from figuring out something that could substitute as the food, but also — and perhaps more importantly — something that would fit into with the holiday spirit and be festive, fun and something that non-vegetarian family and friends will enjoy, too.

Finally, two years ago I had an epiphany: what gives the Thanksgiving meal and holiday its vibe isn’t the elaborate meal with a large main dish: it’s the festive atmosphere. The idea I hit upon was to have a cook-out for Thanksgiving. One of the advantages of a cookout is that it automatically has a festive atmosphere. Cookouts are parties. They are sublimely social.

A cookout has a lot of overlap with Thanksgiving’s vibe. Cookouts are often, like traditional Thanksgivings, “potluck” in that everyone brings something to the feast and is involved to some extent in the preparation of the meal, (in this case, including tending the grill). It’s a communal meal. There’s always too much food and everyone tends to overeat. Thanksgiving & cookouts share a casual party vibe. I think the whole cookout idea should work out pretty well for those of you who live in a climate warm enough to do some of the cooking outdoors. If you think cooking out is an odd way to celebrate Thanksgiving, consider this: for people attending football games on Thanksgiving, tailgate parties are basically a Thanksgiving cookout. Ditto for those who fry their turkeys, which is also an outdoor activity. Lots of people do al fresco Thanksgiving cooking…we’re just taking it a step further by making it meatless.

Thanksgiving has always been about community from the very first Thanksgiving (or our idealized version of it). It is also about family, so unless you have a non-vegetarian family who is inflexible about holiday traditions, non-vegetarian family members can be comfortably included in a vegetarian Thanksgiving cookout. People who balk at Tofurkey, will probably not have that reaction to a huge succulent portobella mushroom burger, which will likely be devoured without a murmur. 😉

If not…then the carnivores of the clan can bring their own burgers and use the grill after the vegetarian food has been cooked. Obviously that’s not an option if the very idea of meat freaks you out, but as mixed vegetarian and non-vegetarian Thanksgiving options go this is better than vegetarians eating their tofurkey while sitting in front of a Big Dead Bird which everyone else is eating. Encourage everyone to have the mushrooms and veggie burgers, but don’t pitch a fit if someone brings their own food for the grill. It’s bad for digestion…and there’s going to be a lot of delicious things to digest!

The first year we did this I experimented with making spicy bean burgers…which fell apart on the grill.  😯 By Thanksgiving last year I had discovered LightLife’s vegetarian burgers, which I love. They make three different burgers: the regular veggie burger, a portabello burger which has mushrooms incorporated in the patty, and the Backyard Grillin’ Burgers. Of the three, the latter is the best and most savory, though the portabello patties are really excellent, too. Their regular veggie burgers taste good, but once you’ve had one of the others, you’ll never look back! Of course, anytime we grill I have to throw some whole portabello mushrooms on the grill, so there’s no escaping the ‘shrooms in my household!

Here’s some cookout recipes that I’ve made for our Thanksgiving cookout.

Cookout (portabella burgers)
Potato Salad
BBQ Baked Beans
…and, of course, LightLife’s Backyard Grillin’ Burgers

I’ll have my recipe for pumpkin pie on the blog later in the month, but last year, knowing how utterly stuffed we were on food the year before, I made Ginger Bread for dessert. I swear, there’s more food every year and with others bringing dessert, too, pie would’ve been overkill.

I think a cookout is a good Thanksgiving option for a mixed group of people: vegetarians won’t have to face a Big Dead Bird and non-vegetarians won’t have to face tofurkey. A cookout should keep everyone in their comfort zone — and Thanksgiving should be fun, not stressful or conflicted.

If you want an indoor vegan Thanksgiving, nancis posted a wonderful account of her Vegan Thanksgiving recently. I’ll be posting some family recipes for some traditional Thanksgiving fare: candied yams, cornbread dressing, and pumpkin pie, throughout the month.

Cookout: Portobello Burgers and Grilled Corn

This is what’s on the grill for our basic casual summer cookout: Portobello burgers and corn-on-the-cob. There are some excellent veggie burgers out there and I often have some on the grill too, but Portobello mushrooms are irresistible, so no matter what else you throw on the grill, make room from some of these!

Portobello burgers for two (increase amounts according to the number of people).

2 large Portobello mushroom caps, stem removed. I prefer marinating the mushrooms in white wine, having experimented with both white and red. Vinho Verde is a crisp, citrusy, effervescent wine from Portugal. Casal Garcia is my favorite winery for this, but there are others which are good. It makes a good marinade for the mushrooms, when you add a little olive oil to it. I use 1/2 cup wine and a drizzling of olive oil (sorry, I never measure this) for 2 big ‘shrooms. A baggie is good for marinating: I can swish it all together and around to make sure the liquid gets into the gills and coats the cap. You can get away with a relatively modest amount of marinade if you’re using a baggie, whereas I’ve found that it takes a lot to get coverage in a bowl. If I use a big bowl, it takes a large volume of liquid and when I used a small but deep bowl, to my chagrin I discovered that the mushrooms were wedged in hovering above the marinade in the bottom! The mushrooms should marinate in the fridge for at least a few hours before cooking. If you want to marinate them the day before, that’s okay, too.

What about seasonings? What you put in the marinade depends on what you’re going to put on them later, on the grill. You can marinate them in flavored olive oil and or add dried herbs to the marinade, but if you’re going to add any seasonings or embellishments while grilling it’s real easy to get flavor overkill and clashes. Having herbed the living hell out of the marinade and then added herbed cheese when they’re on the grill, I’ve learned my lesson.

My own preference is to go light on the marinade herbs and added Cheesy Girl vegetarian chevre to the mushroom caps halfway through the cooking time. Cheesy Girl makes cheese with a variety of seasonings and though you could echo some of those in the marinade, that’s not necessary and may be too much. Really, for my tastes, the herbed cheese with the simple unseasoned marinade described above, is perfection. You will, of course, want to experiment with your own herbs and local cheeses. 😀

Grill the mushrooms, gill side down first, for about 6 minutes on each side. When you turn the mushroom gill side up, add the cheese, then grill another 6 minutes. We usually grill with the grill covered for both mushrooms and corn. The mushrooms will be very juicy and will continue to leak juice for some minutes after you take them off the grill. (For this reason I don’t recommend slapping them on a bun straight from the grill.) I like mayo on these burgers: it does a good job of keeping the bun from getting soggy and the mild flavor complements the mild cheese.

For grilling corn I prefer unhusked corn: it’s just easier to season and deal with. If the corn hasn’t been shucked, shuck the corn, stripping off the silks. If you don’t get every single one, don’t worry, they’ll usually cook off on the grill. Put two spoonfuls of spreadable margarine on a plate, splash on some lime juice, then sprinkle on your favorite chili powder. (I use Mexene chili powder.) Mush and stir it all together on the plate, then roll the corn in it, slather it on with your hands if you want to, to get the corn cobs covered well.

Grill the corn directly on the grill for about 6 minutes total, turning frequently, with the grill covered between turnings. The corn will be nicely seasoned with smoke. 🙂

Other side dishes you may want to make, particularly if you’re feeding a crowd: BBQ Baked Beans, Frankenslaw, and Potato Salad.

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Potato Salad

Homemade potato salad.

Some years ago I decided that I was going experiment until I had good recipes for “the big 3” side dishes for summer cookouts. I’d already worked out a good vegetarian BBQ Baked Beans recipe, which was much requested, but I and everyone I knew still relied on store-bought containers of cole slaw and potato salad. I’m a big fan of both, particularly potato salad. Once I’d perfected my Frankenslaw so that it was requested as much as the beans, I knew it was time to tackle potato salad. I was a bit daunted by this because I’ve tasted literally hundreds of different kinds of potato salad over the years, at restaurants, from stores and on rare occasions homemade. Potato salad recipes are a bit like Hamlet: there are as many different versions as there are people doing it!

I’ve experimented and tweaked ingredients and amount until I’m satisfied with this recipe. It’s not terribly innovative and has no wildly exotic ingredients, but it makes a good tasty potato salad. This is best made up a day ahead of time and chilled overnight or longer. The flavor improves with longer chilling.

5 lbs medium-size red potatoes
bunch of green onion (6 stalks)
2 stalks of celery, diced
2 Tbls yellow mustard
1 cup light mayonnaise
1 1/4 cups plain non-fat Greek yogurt
4 oz jar of pimentos, drained
3 tsp dried dill

Wash potatoes thoroughly to remove grit and dirt, remove eyes and bad places, but don’t peel — unless you want to. Some people prefer potato salad made with peeled potatoes. I like potato skins and I don’t like peeling potatoes, so I made the natural choice for me. 😉

You can either boil the potatoes whole or cut them into halves or quarters before boiling. (I usually half or quarter them.) Boil potatoes until done, that is, tender when pierced with a fork through the center. While potatoes are cooking, dice celery finely and set aside. Snip green onion into small rounds with kitchen shears. Place the green onions in the bowl you’ll be using for the potato salad.

I prefer a large ceramic container because the mixture is slightly acidic and that’s not a good combination with metal. On the other hand, if you’re taking this to a cookout, picnic, party, or cookout, a big aluminum pan is probably the practical choice. This makes a ton of potato salad (figuratively speaking). I have a 6 qt crockpot and use removable ceramic dish for this recipe.

When potatoes are done and still hot, drain them, then dump them over the green onions in the bowl. Let sit a minute or so. This wilts and steams the green onion. (If you prefer raw onion in your potato salad, skip that and add the green onion with the rest of the ingredients after the potatoes have cooled.)

Stir potatoes and wilted green onions. Then I use a long knife to slice through and through the potatoes until the pieces are smaller. (If you don’t get all the pieces cut small enough on this first pass, don’t worry about it: you’ll get another shot at it when you mix everything in.) The reason I do it this way is that if you cut up the hot potatoes (or let them cool then cut them up) they aren’t hot enough to steam and wilt the green onion. If you prefer the onion raw and cold, go ahead and cool the potatoes before you cut them up.

Let the potatoes and green onion cool completely. When the potatoes are room temp (or you can cover them and cool them off in the fridge) stir in all the other ingredients, until all is thoroughly mixed together and the potatoes are somewhat mushy from the stirring. If the consistency or size of the pieces doesn’t look quite right, run the knife through the whole mess again several times and stir some more.

Refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, overnight is best. Flavor will improve with time and chilling.

The potato salad will dry out in the fridge unless you have a very tight-fitting lid (which I don’t) or perhaps the potatoes soak up some of the moisture. Whatever the cause, you may need to add a bit more yogurt and mayo. If you like your potato salad wetter or mushier, add a little bit more of either mayo and yogurt — a spoonful at a time — until you reach the consistency you like. It doesn’t take much to make it wetter, especially as the potatoes disintegrate with stirring. Bear in mind that yogurt makes it tangier. Give it a taste test before deciding on adding yogurt, mayo or both. This is the point to tweak the texture and consistency to suit yourself. If you think it’s got the right amount of dressing but want it mushier, just continue stirring with a wooden spoon until the potatoes disintegrate more and combine with the dressing.




This is an original recipe. I tried a coleslaw recipe many years ago that included apples. I thought that sounded like a good idea. Unfortunately the recipe wasn’t very good, but the idea stuck in my mind, so a couple of years ago I decided to try to make coleslaw from scratch—with nothing to guide me except taste. The apples and cabbage thing seemed natural to me: it’s a combination I’ve run across before. Then I thought of apple and raisin salad for some reason. If raisins go with apples and apples go with cabbage…but thinking of apple and raisin salad made me also think of carrot and raisin salad. It seemed like all these things from different dishes would go together. Hence the name “Frankenslaw”, a coleslaw put together with ingredients from different dishes. It can be made with just green cabbage, but adding some red cabbage lends more color (and can turn the dressing pink) and with the orange of the carrots it’s a very visually appealing dish.

1 head green cabbage, coarsely chopped
1/2 – 1 head red cabbage, coarsely chopped
2 organic carrots, grated
2 med. Gala apples, peeled and grated
1 cup raisins
1 cup reduced-fat mayonnaise
2-3 Tbls lemon juice

If the head of red cabbage is small, you may want to use the whole cabbage. Wash vegetables. Peel apples and carrots. When slicing, chopping or prepping the cabbage, remove the core. Grate, chop or process the vegetables in whatever way you’re most comfortable with. I’ve done it both ways, using a food processor and slicing the cabbage thinly by hand then coarsely chopping. My current food processor sometimes tends to overdo things so though it’s more trouble I sometimes to do the cabbage by hand, rinsing the cabbage and spinning in a salad spinner between the slicing and chopping. I do it in batches, putting the cabbage in a ceramic or plastic bowl after coarsely chopping. Whether you like your slaw fine or coarse and how good your food processor is will determine which method you use. (My food processor has a slice slot on the flip side of the grating blade. That works much better than using the grating blade.)

I’ve noticed that I’m more likely to have pink(ish) dressing if I use the food processor for the red cabbage: it just seems to bleed into the dressing more. Carrots can also be run though a food processor or grated by hand: in this case I prefer the food processor. Peel the apples and grate however seems best to you. (I use the food processor.) It takes a bit of time to prepare the vegetables, but it’s not difficult even if you don’t have a food processor.

Frankenslaw: colorful and flavorful.

Frankenslaw: colorful and flavorful.

Stir all together well. This makes a lot. You’ll need a big bowl, a really big bowl, which is glass or plastic, not metal. My biggest bowl is usually filled to overflowing. Stirring in the dressing and mixing the vegetables evenly can be tricky in a full bowl. I’ve tried doing it with a big spoon and a salad fork/spoon, but the best way is to put on plastic food-handling gloves and turn over the mixture by hand until the dressing and vegetables are thoroughly mixed and evenly distributed.

Refrigerate, covered, in big plastic or ceramic bowl for at least 8 hours. Flavor improves over time. This is usually better if it’s made a day ahead of time.

Look for next Friday’s original cookout recipe: Potato Salad!

Last week’s original cookout recipe: BBQ Baked Beans

BBQ Baked Beans

BBQ Baked Beans, hot and spicy!

BBQ Baked Beans, hot and spicy!

It’s summertime: prime-time for cookouts, as well as picnics and potlucks. I’m kicking off the summer with a series of cookout-related posts. (Other bloggers may be doing other things, that’s part of the beauty of group blogs. Never a dull moment.) This recipe will put some zing in your next cookout. It was inspired by a recipe I saw some years ago, which I have changed so completely that it no longer resembles the original. To give you some idea how radically this has evolved: it was originally a very complicated meat main dish with exotic (and not very appetizing-sounding) ingredients. I’d made beans lots of times before, but never quite “BBQ baked beans” and as put off as I was when skimming the odd recipe, I thought that there were bits in there I could use to improve my rather lame attempts at “baked beans”. Many years and a gazillion changes later…I came up with this new totally vegetarian version. 🙂

Here’s something for you to think about when you’re adapting a recipe that calls for bacon “for flavor”: what really adds the flavor (to my way of thinking) isn’t the bacon, but the hickory smoke (or apple or mesquite, or whatever the current trendy tree is). The smoke lends a savoriness to whatever it’s added to. A little bit of liquid smoke can do the trick, depending on what the recipe is.  🙂 For something like this, which is associated so much with cookouts, liquid smoke is a nice touch. (Colgin liquid smoke comes in a number of different flavors: hickory, mesquite, apple, pecan.)

This is very spicy. If you want a milder version, use one jalapeno instead of two. I really wouldn’t recommend eliminating it altogether because the pepper — and the spiciness of it — is an essential feature of the dish. It’s supposed to be spicier than regular baked beans. 🙂

1 16oz pkg dried pinto beans (2 1/4 cups)
2 Tbls olive oil
2 med onions, chopped
2 jalapenos, minced
2 cloves garlic, pressed (or diced)
1 cup ketchup
1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
2 Tbls spicy brown mustard
1 1/2 tsp (or to taste) liquid smoke (I’m partial to mesquite, but have also used hickory.)

If you are taking this dish to a BBQ or potluck, you may want to double the recipe and use a disposable aluminum pan. I’ve found that the deep aluminum roasting pans work well, and are more or less necessary if you double the recipe (a good idea if you’re going to be feeding a crowd).

There’s different “timings” for making this. Some of the preparation needs to be done ahead of time, but how much prep you do the day ahead and how much on the day of serving is up to you. You can soak the beans the day before or the night before. Or you can soak them two days before, make the dish the day before and reheat it. Choose the timing that fits your schedule.

The day before you plan on serving the beans, soak the beans either all day or all night, covered in 3 times their volume of water. If you soak the beans during the day, in the evening drain the beans, add fresh water and cook for 45 minutes. Cool, then refrigerate overnight. If you soak the beans overnight, then drain the beans, add fresh water and cook for 45 minutes the next day and continue on with making them.

Preheat oven 350.

If you’re starting with cold beans cooked the night before, bring the beans and liquid slowly to a simmer while chopping the veggies. Otherwise, chop the veggies while the beans are cooking.

In a large saucepan, saute the onions in olive oil, then add jalapenos and garlic. Stir in the ketchup, brown sugar, mustard, 1 1/2 tsp Liquid Smoke (or to taste), along with some of the bean cooking liquid (about 1/2 cup).

Simmer sauce briefly, while transferring the beans with a slotted spoon to a 3 qt. casserole dish (or big disposable aluminum pan if you’ve doubled the recipe to take to a cookout). Pour sauce over beans. Stir well. Reserve the bean cooking water in case you need to add more liquid.

Put the casserole dish (or pan) in oven. Bake uncovered 45 minutes. If it looks like it’s cooking too dry, stir in a bit more of the reserved bean liquid. If it’s too moist, you can bake it longer.

I get regular requests to bring this to cookouts. It’s a sure-fire hit! 😀 Look for next Friday’s original cookout recipe: Frankenslaw!